Men Are the Problem?

By Ryan Thomas, Host and Co-Founder of Modern SexTalks. You can follow Modern SexTalks on Facebook or Twitter.

An article in the Metro Vancouver paper, scared me recently. The author, Rosemary Westwood, was discussing how Stanford reacted to a sexual assault case, and presented a solution to curb sexual assault by applying liquor regulations to college parties. She explained in the article that doing so is avoiding the real problem (which I agree with, albeit a bit differently). Here’s how the article ended:

“I have been drunk. I have been obliterated. I have blacked out. And I have never, ever sexually assaulted another person or wanted to. If men feel differently, the problem isn’t with booze.

The problem is with men.”

This is a dangerous statement, especially the way it was written. It’s a new paragraph for a line that states, “The problem is with men.”

First of all, she is not representative of all women. Nor is the man in question, representative of all men. Yet the sub-communication behind this ending is implying that women aren’t at fault, and men are. A statement like this one is a slippery slope that both men and women will suffer from.

I don’t want to talk about what the young man did that was referenced in the article. Because that’s easy. What he did was wrong. It was sexual assault.

Nor am I trying to discuss the decisions regarding Stanfords “solution” to curb sexual assault.

I could get into an argument and become defensive and start saying all the ways that women hurt and take advantage of men. I could also get into an argument by saying “If I made a comment like that about women, I would lose my job and be ostracized from society!” But neither would get us anywhere.

And it would be deflecting what she’s trying to fight for; stopping rape and sexual assault. Sexual assault is a real issue. It’s a crime and it’s disgusting behaviour. But my concern in this particular article is not the issue of sexual assault.

My concern is how the anger from that sexual assault, and in that article, is being used to make generalizations and assumptions and implications about an entire gender. My gender.

The truth is, we’ve all been fucked over sexually and emotionally in different ways, and by the other gender. It doesn’t matter which is worse.

What matters is that we’re so caught up in our own pain, that we’re completely blind to the pain of the people we believe are the source of our own. And that blindness prevents us from being heard.

I believe it was the Dalai Lama that said that compassion is the ultimate wisdom. In my opinion, driven by one of my mentors, compassion and understanding are, inclusive of one another. By understanding, I mean understanding the perspective of those who cause us pain and frustration.

SIDENOTE: Having an understanding does not mean justifying. It simply means understanding. That’s it. Plain and simple.

For example, the men who see that there’s a problem aren’t the ones who need to read that article. They already see the problem. But the men who don’t see that there’s a problem, aren’t going to respond well to the argument made in that article. So the whole intent is lost.

In fact, by making a very blanket and blatant sexist remark that “men are the problem”, does not make men who don’t see the problem, want to suddenly jump in and understand why you’re upset. Even if you’re not saying they’re the problem, it’s exactly how it’s going to be interpreted. So the attempt at getting understanding and being heard is completely lost.

And here’s the thing. The majority of people won’t use critical thought to challenge their paradigms unless the new paradigm benefits them.

If you make blanket statements similar to the author’s, you alienate your allies, and you push away the problem and give them more arsenal to hate you back.

Does violence against women happen? Yes it does. But so does violence against men. And there are plenty of women who destroy men’s lives. So at what point are going to stop arguing about who’s doing what, and worse, to whom?
At what point are we going to stop pointing fingers? Because the reality is that you will never stop aggression or violence unless you target the reason behind it.

And you can’t target the reason behind it, unless you understand the people who are acting aggressive or violent.

If you understand them, it’s a seed for compassion. And compassion prevents violence.

It’s like working at a homeless shelter for drug addicts. You see people who are in the worst conditions. You wonder if you would have done any better in life if you had been dealt the same hand of cards.

But by engaging with drug addicts and using the argument “drugs are bad for you, you need to get a job” it doesn’t sink in. They already know those two facts, but their paradigm is different.

The people who succeed the most at helping others heal, understand their perspectives first, THEN communicate. They come from a place of understanding and compassion.

Here’s the trick: In order to have compassion for others, you first need to have compassion for yourself. It’s impossible to give compassion if you don’t have it for yourself. You first have to feel compassion, and then you can give it. Without compassion, anger thrives. Compassion is the dial inside of you that mediates and directs the anger.

A lot of women have unresolved anger towards men. A lot of men have unresolved anger towards women. This is normal. But they create more of it by treating the other gender in a way that makes them think “You hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you back.” Lines like “men are the problem” are the exact kind of fuel that motivates angry anti-feminists to hurt feminists. The anger flows, and it breeds sexism and racism.

Compassion is easy to give when things are going well. It’s in our times of frustration and hurt that our compassion is tested. And it’s the only time it matters.

But, at the same time, what is the solution in real life? We’re talking concepts right now. How do I make it work for me in real life?

Here’s a personal story to give some context in compassion. I used to hate women. I got hurt a lot, and I saw a lot of women destroy men’s lives. Like wives who would cheat on their soldier husbands while they were serving overseas on tour. Then the husband would come home to an empty house with the kids gone, when he thought everything was fine.

This made me angry. A lot. Compassion though, is feeling that anger, but also doing what I can to understand her. When I put in that effort, I was able to recognize that she was probably fed up with him being away so much. She was scared to be alone. Her love was gone, and she was probably feeling abandoned. She knew she needed affection and sex. She’s human.

After some time, she fell love with someone else. She allowed her resentment towards being left behind by the man she truly loved, for a war she didn’t agree with or understand, to push her into the arms of a man who was readily available.

Does that justify her actions? Hell no. But I understand the driving force behind her actions. I understand the pain she was feeling. And now that I understand, I feel compassion for her. That compassion allows me to recognize that we’re all human, trying to get our emotional needs met.

And it also dissolves the rage I felt. To see a brother with a broken heart, and see all the suicides men experience from situations similar to this one. It’s so much pain. So much hurt. And it’s channelled into a belief system towards a chosen gender/race/religion/culture.

Compassion doesn’t stop the pain. But it does counter-act it.

I eventually challenged my paradigm. I remembered that my mom is awesome. She’s a woman. My sister is awesome. She’s a woman. My lady friends would never do something like that. And I know that, because I’ve witnessed it. They’re awesome. So clearly my anger towards women was wrong. It was misplaced. I was hurt, and saw the pain of my brothers, and I decided to tie that pain to every woman I saw.

Once I recognized that there was a small percentage of women that were good, I couldn’t help but start thinking there are more good women out there. Eventually, I recognized that the majority of women are good, and it’s just the few that succumb to their anger that hurt men. The same thing goes for men. The majority of men are good.

But again, we’re blind the pain of the other person. We’re blind to their experience. Which means we can marinate in our own hatred for them until we start to understand them and their experience.

So I’ve asked already. What’s the solution? Here it is: Don’t try to save the world. Instead, save the world from yourself.

Does the world need activism and awareness? Yes. But that activism does not need to be driven by hatred or blanket sexist comments that drive further anger into the realms of a gender war. But if people truly do what they can to save the world from themselves, then when they fight for what’s right, they can come from a place of understanding and compassion.

To tie things up, I’m now in love with women. They frustrate me a lot, and sometimes I do get angry. But I’m not driven by anger. I’m driven by a genuine desire to know them more, and discover new ways I can be a better man.

I could not have made it here if I allowed my anger and my sexist thoughts like “all women are bitches and out to hurt men and take all their money” be the driving force in my life.
Much like perspectives or comments like “Men are the problem”.

It pains me to see a fight for equality and rights being led by hate and blame. What are you doing with your anger? Are you using it to feed a negative belief system about a gender?

Here’s the truth. Men aren’t the problem. Women aren’t the problem. Alcohol isn’t the problem. And it’s not the victims fault either.

The problem is with men women you.

Original article can be seen here.


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